The plant doctors of Flagstaff

Illustration by Aleah Green

Everyone is guilty of at least one plant murder or two — that bamboo plant that was forgotten, or the succulent who had the life sucked out of it by confusing watering habits. Whether a person has a green thumb or red hands, there are resources for students wanting to spruce up their apartment or dorm with some houseplants.

Warner’s Nursery & Landscape Co. is a local gardening store where students can hang out at the coffee shop, wander around the expansive outdoor sales area or buy some houseplants. One of the ways Warner’s connects with students is through their plant truck, known as Warner’s on Wheels. This truck was on campus within the first week of the semester, dishing out potted plants to interested students. Warner’s retail operations specialist Caitlin Thomas said they wanted to take their company mobile after noticing the trend.

“We just wanted to have the ability to give an air of convenience to buying house plants,” Thomas said. “We found this awesome vintage trailer down in Phoenix, and we brought that up, and we renovated it to be able to do some sales out of it. It’s been a really good hit in Flagstaff.”

Warner’s attempts to make caring for plants more convenient and accessible to the community. Thomas said different plants have unique care requirements, such as the amount of light or water they need.

“A succulent is going to require more light than something like a fern, so you want to pay attention to what type of plant you bought,” Thomas said. “It helps if the topsoil is fairly dry, but you don’t want it to get so dry down at the bottom. The bigger the pot you have, the longer it takes to dry out, so a lot of people end up killing larger houseplants because they’re watering it too often.”

Thomas said the employees at Warner’s and those working in the Warner’s on Wheels truck are a resource for students who have questions as new parents to a houseplant.

“We’re really knowledgeable, so [students] are welcome to ask us. You can call us if you’re not sure,” Thomas said. “Really what separates us is that we’re willing to provide the knowledge and expertise to help people along. If someone calls or brings in a plant that they are sure they’re killing, or if there’s a problem that they don’t know [how to fix], they can bring it in, and we will help them with that.”

Thomas and the rest of the organization are proactively trying to make a difference in their community. They are promoting sustainability by rooting their work in classes and teaching people the importance of plants in our world and about the fun in gardening. Thomas said they are educating younger generations, because caring for a plant or planting some wildflowers does make a difference.

There are also plant experts on campus. Botany Club faculty adviser Tina Ayers said the club prepared for its biannual sale, which took place Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. Ayers said they combed through the greenhouse preparing different plants.

“There are whole bunches of plants here that we use in all of our botany classes,” Ayers said. “Now the cool part about having to maintain a bunch of parental plants for the biology classes is that we have a club that takes little bits of [our plants] off, and we sell them twice a year. All of the funds that the students make from the sale go back into taking care of this greenhouse.”

Junior Cailey Clarke is the greenhouse technician, a work-study student who runs the teaching in the greenhouse. Clarke recieves help from the Botany Club. She manages the club and knows her way around a garden.

“Make sure to research your plant, so you know how much water and sun your plants want to have,” Clarke said. “It’s easy to overwater them, so you just have to be cautious of that. They’ll start dropping their leaves or turning yellow, so the plant will tell you when it’s upset, usually.”

Whether a student wants to buy a plant from Warner’s on Wheels or from NAU’s Botany Club plant sale, their new plant doesn’t have to fall to an deadly fate.

There are organizations and clubs on and off campus to help learn how to correctly take care of the flora in people’s homes.